Isn’t it amazing how our lives are a product of our surroundings, as infants we are tailored to be exactly how our parents wish us to. If you were to reverse and make the slightest change, be it the school we go to or the hobbies we have, it could be the difference between becoming the lawyer or the felon.
As children we only know what we are told and what we are told is all we know.
This is why I find it terribly bizarre that I am currently stood at the rusted front gate, of what is apparently my late Grandmothers house. Placing my iced hand on the crumbling paint work, I push the gate open, remnants of the once blackened mental cling to my skin creating delicate crumbs as I rub my hands together.
I am almost certain I have never set foot any where near this decrepit old house, surely I would remember the broken down camper which has now become one with the weed infested flower bed. The registration plate is blocked from view by the skeleton of a bush, it’s branches mangled up against the metal.
Dandelions have sprouted out from the rims of the closest tyre to me, nothing will stop mother nature from doing her thing. Continuing forward to the vast wooden front door it doesn’t even occur to me to even stop and wonder why dandelions are growing in the middle of winter.
I reach down into my pocket, skimming the hand written instructions from my mother, feeling for they key to let me into the unknown. With one small turn in the lock the door cracks open, surprisingly easier than expected, a shower of powdered cement sprinkles delicately onto my head.
No one had made me aware Grandmother had become somewhat of a hermit in her old age. The sight before me does not correlate with the beautifully glamorous woman my Grandmother was always known as.
The decor, whilst retro, is the least of my concerns. I have walked into a hoarder’s paradise. The floor is piled high with boxes which seem to contain more boxes, that I guess are, hiding even more boxes. The walls are almost completely covered with portraits, cracked photo frames holding photos of people I do not recognise, shields; anything with a hook to hang is on these walls.
Now the mess, although unexpected and daunting isn’t the worst part. What truly hit me when I entered this house is the air, it is heavy and my nose protests each intake. It sits on my chest and holds tight to my lungs, the coughing has not even begun yet and I already feel like it is too much for me to handle.
Promptly I start opening every window that isn’t already locked tight, in the vain hope of letting in the crisp November evening air. Suddenly leaving my half eaten bowl of porridge in the sink doesn’t seem so bad. I make a mental note to check online what the long term effects on my lungs will be, I will be spending plenty of time behind these four walls.
With closed eyes I try to calm the whizzing sound in my head, a dozen faces dance cross across the back of my eyelids. Each with the same furrowed brow, each with a hand outstretched in the same unwelcoming manner. I snap my eyes back open and shake my head, as if each of the unwelcome reminder would fall straight out of my ears.
A broken ping-pong table laden with moth eaten clothes, a box of broken watches, mould ridden books and the odd stuffed cuddly toy. To some may just be junk, all I see is a welcome distraction.
What I would assume to be the dining room has the least amount of stuff to sort through, so here is where I shall begin. Hanging cautiously from the ceiling is a large chandelier, many of the hanging gems are missing and more than likely gone forever, a pear drop shaped ruby occupies the centre; it seems it is floating effortlessly below than the rest. Spiders have spun their web over and over again using this precious gem as the scaffold to hold their masterpiece, the web glistens with each shard of light.
Simply beautiful, I reach up to touch it; to feel it between my fingers. I long to dust it and make it shine like it once would have. I quickly glance around the room and clock a curious looking circular pouf, each crack in the leather like a never ending vein. Without using my hands I shuffle it into position and step up carefully. Faced with an object I wouldn’t look twice at when browsing the local flea market, I can’t help but smile. Looking like it has already come away slightly from the rest of the light fixture, I pull gently trying to release the ruby from its crooked prison.
Big mistake, the gem was not the only thing I set free, curiosity killed the cat and it certainly almost killed me. My hand has knocked one of the many little crystals which upturned years worth of dust right onto my face. I cringe away from the dust shower and grip the ruby tightly as I slip down onto the balls of my feet, coughing like I have never coughed before. Gasping for breath and trying not to choke I stumble through the kitchen to the back door leading to the enclosed garden.
Instantly I am hit with a true breath of fresh air, welcomed into my chest like a long lost friend. Unintentionally I wipe the ruby against my leg, looking down at the item in my hand through my streaming eyes, I wonder why I even cared to take it; they should call me magpie Molly.
With each breath I feel myself relaxing. At the end of the garden seems to be a little wooden shed, had I not peered close enough it could have been easily missed, almost completely concealed by the once again over grown foliage. Hidden in plain sight, just like me.
It could be the perfect way to ease into the messy time ahead of me, crossing the barely there footpath I am conscious not to wander accidentally into the overgrown grass jungle. I try to ignore each crunch of the poor little snails under my shoe.
Upon closer inspection this shed seems to be more of a larger summer house, painted with delicate flowers and surrounded by twinkling wind chimes. Using my shoulder to shimmy the door open I enter a room unlike any other room I have seen today. It is spotless, beautiful, and is the epitome of what I believed my Grandmother’s home would look like.
It’s actually ironic, based on the stories passed down from my Mother I have formed an image in my mind of what her Mother was like. I knew she had her hair done every other day at the best hairdressers in town and she was never without her fur coat but there seemed to be a darkness within her. That bit is clear now, just look at where she lived, it was all a facade intent on deceiving those around her. An opaque diamond.
These thoughts often kept to myself, worried if I muttered a single word out loud it would be seem I was describing myself.
There is a crystal vase full of dead roses, the petals have fallen gracefully onto the table beneath, the water used to keep them alive has long gone. A tall dark walnut bookcase takes centre stage and draws my attention the the miniscule choice of books it homes, all nature based and not to my taste.
Apart from a small film of dust along the windows edge, that is all there is to clean in this bright and chilly room.
There goes my hopes for fresh air, falling straight out of the window.
The wooden floor feels slightly bouncy and if I were to touch it I guarantee it’d be damp. I swipe the vase away with one hand and discard the deceased flowers into the garden, holding it up to the light creates a smallest rainbow on the table it belonged to.
Only, what I thought was a small corner table is indeed an old style chest. It seems to have been painted and polished, the slick surface is what had mistaken me, it wasn’t until I went to put the vase back down I notice the writing on the lid.
M.L.C? … Molly Louise Copper?
Although my heart is telling me to go home, make a cup of tea and ask your Mother to come to the house with you tomorrow, I can’t help but be intrigued. Why one earth would my own initials be on an object owned by a lady I have only met twice? Without taking a moment to think, I lift the lid up and my heart sinks.
I don’t know what I was expecting but it was not a manky old book and another chest, only smaller. It is apparent it is some sort of jewellery box, the ballerina that would have once spun to the sound of Tchaikovsky is now limp and unresponsive. The figure is surrounded by pear shaped ruby droplets, identical to the one I am still holding onto.
I have never been good with weird, or what some may call coincidences, I always have to come up with a valid reason behind a situation. It is rare I fail to do so but unfortunately for me this is one of those moments. I place my ruby from the house into the box with its sisters and drop it in back into the chest.
As the jewellery box collides at the base a thud much louder than I would have thought possible erupts, in fact the floor which surrounds the curious piece of furniture just doesn’t seem right. Even through my boots and socks it feels colder than the ground outside.
I take the book, stuffing it down the waistband of my jeans and close the heavy lid to once again reveal the three peculiar letters. With all my energy I ignore my now numb fingertips to pull the trunk away from wall, a moment of inquisitiveness I am sure I will forever regret.
If this house hadn’t been enough of a surprise, enough to make me turn and run then you would think this would be it. I have uncovered a hole, a wide dark hole with depth I am unsure of, using my phone I shine the light to reveal a ladder. The inside of the hole is lined with wooden panels as far as I can see, someone has truly taken the time to construct this tunnel. It emits a strange, sweet woody, homely smell that lingers at the back of my throat.